Reading through the blogs to which I subscribe, I have started to wonder whether or not I am a novelist. Perhaps I'm a novella-ist. Is that a word?
I like short stories, usually between 10 and 15 thousand words. I do weekly flash fiction (1-5K). My fanfiction multichaps, like my two manuscripts, are nearer 50 thousand than 100 thousand words. Are these novels? Each is a complete story told without frills or preamble, backstories given only as necessary.
I mention in my comment on Sophie Li's blog that I don't usually enter a story with a word count in mind. Additionally, I don't tend toward detailed outlines. Occasionally I've taken a short story or flash fiction idea and gone further with the characters, adding other characters and deepening the conflict beyond what might have been in the original piece.
Is this the right way to write? I don't know. Has it worked for me? I think so. My first novel is off to the printers (so I hear). The second has had a fair reception from pre-readers. I feel that they tell a story.
However, I know I need more form in my style. I know, in future, I would like to have a more compelte idea before I begin writing. At the same time, I fear becoming staid and losing the fun and flexibility that com from discovering with my characters, through my characters.
I've learned enough to know that pushing a character to do something contrary to their personality, for the sake of plot and structure, can ruin a story. However, even though what I plan might not be out of character, often during an exchange between characters, an even more natural response results.
Geek Moment: Q from Star Trek.
Picard and Janeway had personalities that interacted well with Q. He could play with them, push their buttons, and move them as he liked. Each of Next Generation and Voyager had several Q episodes. Sisko, on the other hand, responded very differently. Not out of character, though. Sisko could be diplomatic, or romantic, or philosophical, but Q did not bring out these qualities. He brouth out stubborness and hostility.
Just so, I would like, if I brought two characters together and find they antagonize each other rather than complimenting or cooperating, to have a structure loose enough to accomodate the result, that I could explore the relationship at the same time as the story I have already set the characters moving along.
Do you have a word count in mind when you start? Do you aim for 100K and feel inadequate when you fall short? Do you tend to stretch stories or shorten them?